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March 2004 Vol. 19, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Florida’s Great Whites

from the March, 2004 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In 125 feet of water off St. Augustine, on the Atlantic Coast of Northern Florida, Bob Joiner gave his son Robbie a signal for a shark sighting. It was early January, and the two were diving 35 miles offshore, from the Foxfire charter boat. Bob said the shark "had a big tail, pretty much the same size top and bottom, a real pointed nose, and it had that splotchy white belly. The belly was flat, which is a bad sign when you're looking at a shark." It was a great white, 12-16 feet long.

The white, accompanied by amberjacks, cobia, and remoras, glided past 30 feet away, looking at them. Suddenly the fish disappeared. "That," Bob said, "was a sign he changed his mode. It concerned me." The Joiners, both carrying spearguns with powerheads, rose to within 50 feet of the surface, losing sight of the great white.

But it reappeared, rising at them at a 45-degree angle. Fearing for his son, Bob swam over to Robbie and from a distance of 6 feet, Bob fired between the shark's eyes. The shaft penetrated, but the .357 magnum charge failed to detonate. "The shark shook out the shaft and took off," Bob said. "The buddy system helped us out. A fish that big could easily put you in shock, so you couldn't respond as you normally would. We were glad when we got back to the boat. That was an awesome fish -- but we hope we don't see another one."

In December, Captain Ronny Surrency of Atlantic Coast Charters was diving on a wreck about 20 miles east of Mayport when he saw a mammoth great white. "I could safely say he was 20 feet long. He was like my boat," Surrency said. "His eye was about the size of a Nerf basketball." Surrency stood on the bottom and watched as the shark glided within 20-25 feet. "He was an old fish, all scratched up. He swam in, then turned off and swam away. I said, 'OK, this wreck isn't big enough for the two of us,' so I left."

Joe Julavits, The Florida Times-Union

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